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Saving money on music

I remember the very first CD I ever owned – Weird Al’s Bad Hair Day. I had a few cassettes, but I got my first stereo and my first CD on the same day, and I think that I can still recite half the lyrics from that album from the heart. I listened to that CD, and many other CDs, over and over, and over again. It used to be that I could go into my room, sit down with an album, and just listen to it through. It was, in and of itself, a form of entertainment.
Unfortunately for the musicians and the music entertainment business, how we consume music media has changed. Thanks to Top 40 radio stations and YouTube, most of my generation ignores albums in their entirety and focus on the “hit single”. Which song has the best music video? Which song is featured most in clubs? Which song has the highest YouTube view count? Music is no longer the primary focus, it is something that is constantly on in the background of our lives.
Alongside the fall of the musical album, we have the rise of music piracy. When albums were released on vinyl, it was a lot more difficult to produce illegal copies of that album. As the business transitioned to a digital world, it left open the risk of piracy, and in doing so, has helped grow P2P applications such as Kazaa and BitTorrent. Now any album can be downloaded almost instantaneously, consumed, and discarded. Thankfully, there are legal options for consuming music in this fashion, so here are the best ways to get the music that you want while spending the least amount of money.


Go digital

Technology is moving away from physical media. Unless you are a collector, or unless you fear “the cloud”, there is no reason that your musical collection should not be digital. If you already have a huge physical media collection, there are plenty of guides to transfer your music to a digital format like mp3 or WMA. There are a couple of reasons for going digital…
First, it’s practical. If you go to a store and look to buy a portable media player, you aren’t going to find a walkman or a Discman on the shelf. You will find an iPod or mp3 player. They are smaller, can fit more music, and have more features. New vehicles are equipped with Bluetooth or Auxilary inputs for media players, and home stereo systems are the same. Eventually, it is predicted that all physical media will be done away with. Instead of fighting against the trends and investing in an ever-increasingly expensive dying system, go with the flow and go digital. It will save you time and money.
Secondly, it’s cheaper. If you want to buy a new album, you can either hit up your local FutureShop/BestBuy/HMV and see if you can find the new release CD for $15 or $20. That same album will be available online from multiple retailers for $10. For one CD, it might not be a big difference, but if you want to own a LOT of music, then that is a huge premium to be paying.

Go online

The way that technology has already come, and the direction that it is going, you have to start to consider if you really need to own music from now on. Back in the days of vinyl and cassette tapes, if you wanted to hear a song, you had to own it – or at least know someone who owned it. The chance of catching it on the radio was slim, so unless you purchased the music, you may never hear the songs or the album that you wanted. Now, however, it is ridiculously easy to listen to music that you don’t own.
Websites have sprung up all over the web that allows one to listen to a musical album. Various online radio stations – such as Grooveshark (CAN) or Pandora (US) allow one to pick and choose music or listen to random selections in a genre. It is all supported by online advertising, and it is all free and legal. For just a single song, YouTube will most likely have a version you can listen to, again, supported by ads. Chances are good that you have an internet-capable device at home – and with the proliferation of smartphones, chances are also good that you can listen to streaming music while on the road as well.
How have you saved money on your music collection?


  1. SavingMentor

    I’ve been using Grooveshark now for quite some time and I haven’t purchased any music in a long time. I do have a digital library made up of old ripped CDs along with purchases from iTunes, PureTracks, and their like. I’ve also used iCoke coins to purchase quite a few songs as well.

  2. Jack Sparrow

    You present some great options, especially Grooveshark. But keep in mind that downloading music is NOT necessarily illegal in Canada, despite what the record companies will try to tell you. In fact, it enjoys the same legal status as copying from an existing CD or LP that you own under the Private Copying provisions of the Copyright Act. I’m not suggesting that downloading is the best option, because it’s not- it opens you to potential malware and sometimes has questionable quality. Even so, the discussion of music options should be an informed one.

  3. krantcents

    I shared my daughter’s playlist, and digital downloads make up the lion’s share of my music besides Pandora occasionally.

  4. CF

    I’ve never accumulated a lot of music and I still don’t. But downloading and streaming music has definitely exposed me to more bands than before. If anything, I listen to more music now than I used to.

    I still make physical CD purchases for my favourite bands, especially if the CDs come with anything extra. But this happens maybe 2-3 times a year.

    And for a lot of music, it’s still cheaper to buy a used CD and rip it to your MP3 player compared to buying it online. You could even re-sell the CD afterwards if you didn’t want a physical copy.

  5. Cheapskate Jake @ My Personal Finance Journey

    I do have to admit that I still own that Bad Hair Day Album! My favorite song from it is Amish Paradise!

    But you are correct, it’s hard these day to save money on music while doing it legally. Legally, being the keyword.

    I probably use Pandora the most out of anything to save money on music. I haven’t bought an album in more than 10 years, unless it is for a gift to another person.

  6. Gamma Cephei

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